When I was a young girl, I had an argument with my parents that led to me storming into my bedroom, picking up a clock radio, and smashing it against the wall while screaming, “You’ll never hurt me again!”
What had they done? What had I done? I can’t answer either of these questions but as I look back over my life, I see how afraid I’d been…afraid of being hurt by those people whom I loved and how I’d allowed that fear to gradually build a hard, defensive, shell around my heart.
I can also recall times when that shell felt good and strong and protective…and maybe it was. Maybe it served a purpose when I was so young and fearful, but the older I became, the more I realized that fear (which I almost always expressed as anger) was too small.
I used to sense that my life was not expansive enough, but the answer, I thought, was in doing something different; new work, travel, experiences, exercise, diet…whatever. And while these new activities added some sparkle and energy to my life, I knew deep down that I wasn’t living fully.
My breakthroughs have always come by surprise and often in the most unexpected ways. The last major breakthrough came in the summer of 2016 when I had my heart broken by someone whom I’d deemed incapable of hurting me in that way. And the reason that I didn’t think I could be hurt so deeply was because I’d never really committed my heart to him. That “vow” that I’d taken as a child was still functioning as a shield to love…the kind of love that demands vulnerability…and feels incredibly risky.
I hadn’t known how afraid I was until I was faced with a hurt deep enough to break me open…. but it did break me open and I allowed it to happen. I knew it was happening for me, not to me, and as the days, weeks and months passed, I hoped that the opening would be a one-time deal and that I wouldn’t revert back to self-protective, fearful, thoughts, but this hasn’t been my experience. When I got sober in 1986, it was a lighting bolt, life-changing moment: I never wanted to drink again, and I never have.
But this new opening has not unfolded in that way. I’ve had moments of intense anger (fear) that have made me feel like a victim who needs to protect herself from further pain. I’ve had moments of suspicion which have led to anger (fear) and yet again, the desire to self-protect and proclaim, “You’ll never hurt me again!”
But what would I be running from if not myself? I would be running from thoughts and feelings, my thoughts and feelings, that tell me I am not safe.
So as I walk this new path, I walk with the awareness that there is nothing to lose but my old belief that I am not safe and that I must protect myself. I cannot protect myself from getting hurt unless I also agree to limit my capacity to love and I am no longer willing to do that.
Several nights ago, I dreamt that I had escaped the clutches of an evil woman only to find myself back at her house. As I stood before her she said, “You have changed me” and I knew that I had nothing to fear…that she was a friendly force.
I am vulnerable and it feels like a freedom that I am just beginning to grasp the significance and power of. I invite you to join me on this path of trust…trust in our deepest essence and its wisdom to lead us to more life, love, and an inner peace that cannot be explained but can only be lived.
“When we fight with our failing
we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself
and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.”
I’ve had this quote of David Whyte’s on my computer for a while…without ever looking him up or reading anything he’d written. Below is his TED talk, A Lyrical Bridge between Past Present and Future, and it is incredible. You can also find it on YouTube.